FileMaker's Web site has the usual marketing materials you'd expect from a great software company. But there's lots of substance there, too. Look for "Support" in its main navigation menu, where you'll find free and fee-based help.
A.2.1. Updaters & Downloads
Like most programs, FileMaker's latest software versions are those found on the software company's Web site. You'll find Software Updates and support files, like localized language packs at www.filemaker.com/support/downloads/index.html. Trial software and development tools, including an XLST library and a list of recently released plug-ins, are also available from this page.
If your installation is missing some (or all) of its templates, click the Starter Solutions link to download new copies. You can also download a free, ready-made business solution called FileMaker Business Tracker. It's an invoicing system that lets you track sales, contacts, and product data. Even if your business doesn't do sales, you'll find this product useful for study purposes. It was written as a demo file for FileMaker 7, and it's full of developer tricks of the trade you can analyze. When you've mastered all the secrets there, you're ready to leave the monastery, Grasshopper.
A.2.2. Documentation and Publications
You can reach this list from the Downloads page above, but it's so jammed-packed that it deserves a headline all its own.
A.2.3. Technical Support
FileMaker supports the current version of its software and one version prior. If your files are older than that, you'll need to get help from a third party, usually a consultant or a user group. See the section below to find out how to find those animals.
You can't start making databases until FileMaker's installed, so everybody who purchases FileMaker gets unlimited tech support phone calls regarding installation. Plus, you get one free troubleshooting call for each product you buy, which is helpful when you have a bunch of staffers on FileMaker Pro, a copy or two of Server and your very own copy of FileMaker Pro Advanced. The tech support is free, but you'll pay for the phone call, so break out those free long-distance minutes. Dial (408) 727-9004 for the free stuff.
Paid tech support is available by calling (800) 965-9090. Get out your credit card when you call, then decide how you want to pay. You can choose a $45 flat fee and they'll solve a single issue for you or you can roll the dice (and get multiple problems solved at once) by choosing the $3 per minute rate, with a $75 maximum. Phone tech support is available 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT weekdays.
Premium 800 Support lets you pre-pay $180 for a five-pack of access codes that let you make the calls when the trouble arises. Codes are good for one year. Call (800) 325-2747 for the bulk discount.
Professional Support costs $899 per year. You nominate one person from your company who can call a special toll-free number as many times as needed for twelve months. Add $699 for each additional person who needs the same access. Download the order form at www.filemaker.com/support/prof_support_info.html.
Note: Technical Support deals with technical problems, like when a feature isn't working as advertised and you need help figuring out why. Teaching you how to create databases or writing your calculations and scripts for you are not considered technical support issues.
File corruption isn't common with FileMaker, but it's devastating when it happens. FileMaker offers file recovery services at $100 per table. Go to www.filemaker.com/support/technical_support.html and scroll to the bottom of the page for more information.
A.2.4. FileMaker Applications
If you find yourself without the time or inclination to create a new database, you may be able to purchase one of these ready-made systems, professionally designed by FileMaker staff. Like FileMaker's Starter Solutions (aka templates), FileMaker Applications are fully unlocked and customizable. But they go a lot further than the Starter Solutions, and you may find that they meet many of your needs straight out of the box. Prices range from $69 to $448. These applications let you manage tasks like employment recruiting, tracking donors and donations, managing meetings, and work requests. See www.filemaker.com/products/applications/index.html for a complete list. Click the link for each solution to get more information about each product and to see online demos.
A.2.5. FileMaker Solutions Alliance (FSA)
The FSA is a bit of a hybrid. It's run by FileMaker, Inc. and to be sure, you pay annual dues to be a member, but you become a part of the developer community when you do. For the casual or in-house developer, one of the most practical benefits is TechTalk, a members-only email list where you can ask questions and share your own experiences. The old hands are willing to share their wisdom with newcomers. The list is very active, with upwards of a hundred messages a day, particularly when a topic sparks developers' interest. (The list is moderated, so it rarely veers off track.)
Other FSA benefits include access to exclusive technical information, invitations to exclusive technical briefings and the annual meeting at the developer's convention, and discounted or even free products. There are four levels of membership, with increasing benefits (you can be listed in the FSA Directory, and a free copy of FileMaker Pro Advanced, for example). If you're planning to become an independent consultant, membership in the FSA is invaluable.
Part I: Introduction to FileMaker Pro
Your First Database
Organizing and Editing Records
Building a New Database
Part II: Layout Basics
Advanced Layouts and Reports
Part III: Multiple Tables and Relationships
Multiple Tables and Relationships
Advanced Relationship Techniques
Part IV: Calculations
Introduction to Calculations
Calculations and Data Types
Part V: Scripting
Part VI: Security and Integration
Exporting and Importing
Sharing Your Database
Part VII: Appendixes
Appendix A. Getting Help